2011-07-25

A weekend without sleepingbags

This weekend Jess and I decided we wanted to walk. In particular, we wanted to walk all day.

So, I suggested we just get some food and walk north on Saturday. The idea would be to "stealth" camp (I.E. lie down somewhere where we wouldn't bother anyone, and do no damage, and sleep). Then we'd have all of Sunday to figure out how to get back (we already knew there was a bus system running clear to santa rosa).

Here's what I brought (including what I wore):
backpack
2.5L water (in soda bottles)
marino sweater
underarmor running tights
marino hat
waterproof rain coat
polypro blanket
compass, headlamp, pocket knife, leatherman squirt
iodine
minimal med kit
basic emergency gear
emergency bivy (normally I consider this part of my basic emergency gear)
A bit of no-cook food (gorp, drink mix, salami, indian food, bagels and nutella)
other basics (money, keys, ID)

And what I wore:
waterproof running shoes
shortie gators
marino socks and women's dress socks as liners
marino T-shirt
cotton shorts
fast-dry boxers
tilley hat

Jess' gear looked pretty similar except she had a silk sleepingbag liner to sleep in instead of the blanket. This was both lighter and much much smaller. She wore huaraches, a brave move, and she also elected to pass on the compass since we had good backstops in this area, and I had one anyway.

Between the 2.5L of water, and the polypro blanket (both heavy and bulky) my 25L backpack was both full and surprisingly weighty. Still, overall this was probably the most minimal trip I've ever done - even if not the lightest. When I complain that it was heavy I mean that it was probably more like 15+ lbs rather than 10. It felt like it was a bit too heavy for running (I used to run with a 10lb pack regularly).

We considered taking a bus, but decided we wanted to get on the trail as fast as possible, so instead we drove across the golden gate and parked on the north side. We tried to park on the south side, but that lot turned out to be metered.

Anyway, we walked north. We found blackberries and delicious plums, as well as a few of the more mundane nibblables like fennel. We reached Muir woods and realized we had to pay to hike through, so we backtracked and went around it, it just seemed too silly to pay to walk through that bit of woods. We were going near the "Tourist's Club" so we stopped there. Turns out the "sausages" are actually cold but delicious sticks of meat. Not what we were hoping for, but still... definitely food. We also had a pickle each and some chips.
While we were eating a guy walked up and asked if we liked the beer. We said we weren't drinking any (we're just not in the habit of buying beer). After a short exchange about whether we drink, he offered to buy us drinks. We accepted one for the two of us, and it was quite enjoyable (good beer). Hooray for friendly people :).

Then we hiked off. Took a wrong turn and ended up in a really pretty redwood valley with a few houses. It looked like it'd been logged maybe 50 years ago. On the way down though we'd seen a nice unmarked side-trail that looked interesting, so we went back up (at this time quite tired) and down the sidetrail. After a bit we saw a swale that looked like a great place to sleep, so we clambored down the steep hill (after spotting a deer) and sure enough, beautiful thick duff and nice open space.

Nearby Jess spotted a shelter, a wickup built against a tree, it had a big welcome sign in front. We were mildly surprised by this. It was pretty well built, looked mostly waterproof (the top was a bit thin on duff). There was a stream not far away too. Kudos to whoever built it!

We decided not to sleep in it though (despite the welcome sign), since we had other experiments in mind. As soon as we lay down we both started to fall asleep, so we just lay for a while enjoying the sounds and such. Eventually we got up and ate some of the prepackaged indian food we'd brought. Then I lay down with my blanket, and Jess in her bag liner. Since we were on thick duff I just used the blanket over me. We both put on our tights and sweaters. I put on my hat as well. During the night I took off my shoes, 'cause I realized they were making my feet colder.

Overall we slept pretty well, my biggest problem with the blanket was that when you shift or roll over the blanket lets out all your heat, where a sleeping-bag would hold it next to you anyway. I need a lot more practice sleeping out with a blanket like that before it's really comfy, but overall, it wasn't bad. We woke up pretty refreshed in the morning, and ate some nutella and bagels after walking a short distance to warm up.

Next day we first walked back down and into the back of muir woods (Jess was curious, and this way we didn't pass the main entrance with the toll). then we walked up the dipsea trail and down into mill valley (where we found even BETTER plums). From there we took a bus down to Marin City and then we walked back to the golden gate via Sausalito. We got some food, stopped and looked at some art, and generally a relaxing afternoon getting back.

We figure we covered ~17 miles the first day. Our feet were a little sore, but not that bad (I had blisters in my standard spots, tip of my left pinky toe, and the bottom sides of my heals ). Our legs were tired, but again, not bad. Felt like 17 miles :).
Second day was less, we didn't figure it out carefully but recon maybe 7 miles'ish.

Conclusion:
Awesome! I'm going to get myself a silk liner as well. The idea of walking out with what amounts to dayhike equipment, and staying out overnight in relative comfort, is awesome. On any given trip the feeling that you don't really have to go home is incredibly freeing. You *could* just keep walking if you wanted to. For now that feeling still requires a little gear. We keep working towards nothing, but I'm not there yet.

Thinking about of the survival advantages of being practiced at this type of camping. If you *did* end up stuck (say, 3 days in, and your backpack got washed down a river), sleeping out with what you've got would be routine and no big deal.

One last thought - I'm jealous of Jess being able to walk 17 miles in huaraches, a trivial shoe to make. She had about the same foot pain as I had from expensive shoes, expensive socks, and gators ($120 in shoes/insoles + $60 gators + $20 = ~$200 in total footwear).